Borrowing Levels are High

by : Abbi Rouse

Britons are borrowing an increasing amount of money, new research shows.

In the latest Savings Brake study carried out by Unbiased, lending through the likes of credit cards, loans and overdrafts accounted for some 11.7 billion pounds between July and September, a figure about double of that recorded during the preceding quarter. Meanwhile, findings from the firm also indicated that savings decreased by more than 11 billion pounds over the course of the third quarter of 2007. Overall, for every pound the typical Briton saved during the third quarter of the year, some 35 pence was borrowed. According to the company this represents a "significant increase" from the 13 pence per pound borrowed during the previous three-month period.

According to the company, the recent climate of high interest rates has seen many Britons dip into their savings accounts or take out a loan in an attempt to help cope with various financial constraints over the summer, including holidays. In addition, the credit crunch and its subsequent impact on the availability of cheap UK loans was also reported to have had an impact on consumers' capacity to handle their money.

Commenting on the figures, David Elms, chief executive of Unbiased, said: "We have seen a lot of activity in the financial markets in the third quarter of 2007, which marked the beginning of the Northern Rock crisis. Interest rates over the summer were still at a high level of 5.75 per cent and many people will have felt the impact of the credit crunch starting to bite their disposable income.

"While the high level of borrowing and a drop in savings for this quarter may come as no surprise, it is a worrying development. And with the cost of Christmas about to hit the nation's pockets over the next couple of months it is unlikely that we will see a significant improvement in the Savings Brake ratio."

As a result, Mr Elms advised it is crucial that consumers take the time to take steps to take control of their financial situation. And that their level of savings and borrowing, whether this is through loans, plastic cards or other means, remains at "a healthy level".

For those concerned about either their ability to save adequately for later life or about the level of money owed in personal loans, overdrafts, store cards and other forms of borrowing, taking out a loan for debt consolidation purposes may prove to be useful. And applying for such a loan may be useful for a rising number of people. A recent study carried out by Alliance & Leicester showed that following the series of interest rate increases since August 2006, households are feeling "less comfortable" in managing various areas of their finances, as the subsequent rise in mortgage costs impinges upon their ability to pay back loans and other monetary demands.

The study also indicated consumers put just 2.1 per cent of their salary into a savings scheme during the first quarter of this year, a record low. Although this proportion increased to 3.1 per cent between April and June, the financial services firm stated that is still below the decade-average of six per cent. As a result, applying for a cheap consolidation loan could help consumers drastically reduce their borrowing and free up more money to invest into savings accounts.